Sermon week of Prayer for Christian Unity


“Truly, I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters, you did for me (NIV)”


There is a sad misconception amongst many, and in many churches, that when we speak of Christian unity, we are seeking some sort of uniformity, or a church which is all the same, or congregations joining for a mish-mash of worship which pleases no-one or trying to do everything together so that we lose our individual identities. It’s something I’ve certainly seen in some churches I’ve served and something also very misunderstood in our partnership of churches here.


But the truth is, it is unity in Christ we are speaking of, unity in Christ that threads through the material from the World Council of Churches for this service. The crux of the matter ( a word we can uses very deliberately here) is the church unity in Christ. And in Christ, in his life, everything we see about him points to inclusion and recognising diversity and difference, embracing the marginalized, including those otherwise excluded, reaching out beyond the margins of society. Whatever you did for one of these, you did for me.

Seeking justice for the whole of humanity. This is what Christian Unity looks like.


Of course, the ultimate justice, the ultimate inclusion of every single person on earth is in the cross, as Jesus takes on all the injustice, all the division, all the sin, even death and reverses our conceptions, our understanding to place us blameless before God, because of his sacrifice.


Sadly, the church has been complicit over the centuries in much of the division and injustice the world has imposed on humanity. The rights of racial minorities. The rights of those who are different to ourselves or worship differently, or even worship a different God. The rights of the disabled, the rights of children. The rights of slaves. The rights of women,  and in the present day, the rights of the LGBTQ+ community, to name just a few. Ultimately, in many of these cases, those bold enough in the church to speak out, those bold enough to speak the words that the Holy Spirit puts in their mouths, those bold enough to speak out and act, as Jesus did for the marginalized, has led to change. Recognising the diversity of humanity just as Jesus did yet allowing a greater equality. A unity in Christ.


But the church and the world has still a long way to go. Worldwide there is still intolerance, racism, sexism, a lack of understanding of difference, social stigmas and pride of wealth, an unwillingness to accept the diversity that is inherent in humanity, a chasm sometimes between the West and the developing world, so many injustices.


But the church has a gospel, the good news of Christ, and that good news is not just for itself, to ponder or sing about in it’s dwindling churches, it is good news that Christ charges us to tell to all the world.


In breakfast church this morning at the Methodist church, we heard Jesus’ prayer for his disciples just before he was betrayed, a prayer that they would be one in him, that they would know his continued presence, the love of God and the power to continue in his name. Jesus was speaking to them as a group, as the beginnings of his new church, and yet those disciples were individuals too, each different, each from different backgrounds all with different views, some impetuous, some slow and thoughtful, some deep thinking, some reactive. Even one who betrayed him. They were individuals, but to Jesus, they were one in him. They were to be the beginning of his church charged to seek out the marginalised, to speak out for justice, to tell of the love of God and it’s transforming power.


Today the church too is made up from diverse and varied groups of people from different cultures and races. Different traditions, different understandings, different social statuses. And yet we are one in Christ, we have unity, yet not uniformity, and we are charged to speak and act for justice and peace and love. Together with Christ, together in Christ.


Our reading from Isaiah highlighted our sin in often not doing that, just as Isaiah’s people of the time had failed God.

 It speaks of bringing ritual and worship to God, yet not seeking justice, it speaks of making prayers whilst our hands are full of blood. It says God does not want our worship which goes through the motions or burns incense in vain, instead it says in verse 16 and 17 “Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow”

And Jesus says, as we ask who those oppressed are, “Truly, I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters, you did for me”


The waters of our baptism wash us clean, the blood of Christ wipes out our wrongdoing, but only if we repent of our inaction, only if we turn, in unity with Christ to do good, to seek justice, to defend the marginalized. To be Christlike.

It’s a powerful challenge for us as individuals, and as a church. It’s a powerful prayer of true Christian Unity.


In unity with Christ, I pray that we, and the whole church of Christ are up to that challenge. For if we bear his name, then we must be Christians in unity.